I’ll never forget the day George Floyd was murdered. My social feed lit up with videos I refused to watch, while anger, despair and disgust literally pulsated through my phone from my family, friends and Black community members.
As the days progressed and the full horror of what had happened sank in, so did my determination. It was day three as I watched people marching around the world for Black Lives that I realized this moment as a defining one and personal call to action. I made a promise to myself that day that I would rededicate myself to this work and seek out an organization that meant it. One who understood the why, but who needed my leadership to bring ‘the how’ to life. An organization that recognized the man-made inequalities of our world and was willing to use their voice, their values and their platforms to make a legitimate difference.
Enter Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.), and from the beginning I knew it was going to be different. The interviews I had with my now CEO and CHRO were unlike any I have ever had – in fact, they were more conversations than interviews. We discussed the broken state of race relations, the many unacceptable realities of the Black American experience and went deep into LS&Co.’s values, including the acknowledgment that they just hadn’t done enough to strategically drive DE&I. The most powerful sentiment expressed was that collectively, they knew they had work to do, work they wanted to do to ensure “our insides match our outsides.” This was a company seeking to do more than throw up a black square on Instagram – I was all the way in.
As I reflect on 2021, I could not be prouder of what we’ve created and accomplished. With a focus on building a strong infrastructure, I now have a global team, which includes HR Communications team members, a function that was merged into mine to further embed DE&I in our core talent and culture practices. Our focus on strategic global staffing, role clarity and team effectiveness was purposeful and is a big part of what will enable our continued impact.
Support, sponsorship and accountability from our C-suite has been a key driver for us – from declaring DE&I one of our top business priorities, to providing consistent ‘airtime’ for our plans and programs, we’ve kept diversity on the minds of our employees – 87% of whom participated in our global training initiative, #thepledge, in 2021. Embedding an incentive into executive compensation also helped us motivate leaders as did sharing unfiltered employee sentiments from our first global listening and learning tour, True Blue. Finally, the development and socialization of a clear and actionable multi-year global strategy, infused with a change management plan and driven by consistent and compelling storytelling is at the core of our efforts and momentum.
The best part of this journey is doing it with a company that truly strives to live their values. When we talk about #lifeatlevi – we mean it. It’s a whole vibe. A 169-year-old tradition. As I tell my team often, it’s rare to work somewhere where so many team members are rooting for you to win.
The most exciting part of this journey is the enthusiasm, energy and activation of a global workforce that now, like me, is all in. It’s the collective impact of our efforts that will deliver meaningful and sustainable success for LS&Co.
Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer